This week, I’m delighted to welcome author J.L. Salter to talk about writing romantic comedy and his latest release, Stuck on Cloud Eight.
Jeff has been a supportive fellow author and friend online since I was first published, so it’s great to be able to ask him a few questions here on the blog. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his funny romance Rescued by that New Guy in Town a while ago, and there are more waiting on my Kindle that I’m determined to get to eventually!
First, the blurb and the cover, which I absolutely love . . .
Since Keri Winter’s tomboy childhood dream had been to one day possess her own tree house, it does not bother her one bit to be known as Tarzana after she actually builds her home in a tree.
With a steady job she enjoys, Keri invests most of her late mother’s insurance policy into the design and construction of the only inhabitable tree house in Greene County. The house is a marvel, both in its construction and everyday operation, and attracts significant attention. So does its only occupant.
But most of the young men in town hold no interest for her at all. In fact, she seems pretty unapproachable – literally and figuratively – with her head up in the clouds. It would take a mighty tall man to reach Keri’s level and attract her romantic interest.
And even if the right man could reach her, would Keri trust him?
Rusty Battle figures he’s got the right stuff, but in order to prove it, he has to get Keri’s attention.
They’re about to learn proximity can sometimes make the heart grow fonder…or it just might drive Keri crazy.
It’s difficult enough to get to know someone on even ground. Can she start over at a higher level?
Welcome to the blog, Jeff. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever read a book about a tree house. It sounds fascinating! What made you think of it as a basis for a romance novel?
Suffice it to say that I get story ideas all the time. This particular one came while I was strapped onto a spinal decompression table in a chiropractic office. Those sessions lasted about 18 minutes and you couldn’t move or do anything the entire time. I happened to look out the window and saw a tall tree. Then I thought, “Hey, my heroine works in a chiro office and lives in a tree house!” Once I had that premise, it was fairly easy to figure out how and where Rusty would fit in — and the obstacles he’d face.
Well, that’s one way to get story ideas, I suppose (sounds painful, though!) Did you have to do much research for this book?
Don’t want to ruin any plot development by revealing the particular recourse Rusty settles on (to win Keri’s attention), but I had to do considerable research on his selected, um, means to reach her. Interestingly, I did rather little research on tree houses per se, because I’ve spent decades building one in my head (having been inspired by the one in the movie, Swiss Family Robinson). I just let my character Keri move into it! But I did have to research types of trees and their characteristics and whether they would/could grow in middle Tennessee. Also had to research famous American portrait painters of the period including 1780-1810. Finally, I needed a few specifics about Thomas Jefferson, whose name pops up in the novel several times.
Which aspects of Keri’s personality do you admire the most? And Rusty’s?
Well, despite several significant emotional scars, Keri is quite smart and a resourceful survivor, traits I admire. Unfortunately, she takes things a bit too far and feels she has to “protect” herself from all potential relationships. Luckily, Rusty comes along. As far as Rusty’s traits, I guess I admire his plainspokenness, his loyalty to friends, and his courage to react when he’s needed.
They sound like great characters! And now a little about you as an author . . .
Male authors are in the minority when it comes to writing romance. Why do you enjoy the genre?
I enjoy telling an interesting story, with compelling characters and believable dialog. It didn’t take me long to realize that without an agent I’d never get published by any of NYC’s big six houses. So I found out which publishers didn’t require submissions through an agent. Turns out there was an entire industry of small and medium publishers like that and most of them dealt with titles which – for lack of better description – are lumped into a very broad category called “romance.” After more research, I learned that romance has numerous hybrid or blended sub-genres — in fact, so many variations that almost any good story (with a relationship) can fit somewhere. From my 30-year career in librarianship, I already knew that females represented some 70% or more of readers and book buyers; it seemed perfectly logical for them to be my target audience. I’ve long enjoyed stories with strong characters – male or female – facing struggles… and fortunately I found three publishers who (so far) like my manuscripts.
Your books have a healthy element of comedy in them. Can you tell us a little about that?
Even my most suspenseful stories have bits of humor. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I spent several decades in which I found very little humor in life — now I’m catching up. I’ve long enjoyed the screwball comedy films of the 1930s and 1940s; I particularly liked how an audience was eager to watch a preposterous situation unfold without questioning “how on earth could that happen?” In screwball stories, it’s usually one of three type situations: (1) a conflict because at least one of the parties won’t (or can’t) simply explain the typically simple misunderstanding, (2) the parties are thrust into bizarre / complex / dangerous situations – which, in real life would certainly be the end of them – and must escape, (3) to meet a seemingly ordinary goal, at least one of the parties goes to extreme lengths… when, normally, a simple and straightforward approach should have been sufficient. In this novel, Stuck on Cloud Eight, Rusty’s efforts fit that third category of screwball humor.
I do like reading romance that has at least some humour in it, otherwise it can all get a bit too serious! Thanks for visiting, Jeff. It’s been fun getting to know you better 🙂
You can buy Stuck on Cloud Eight at these links:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Besides 12 fiction titles, I’ve published non-fiction monographs, articles, book reviews, and over 120 poems; my writing has won nearly 40 awards, including several in national contests. As a newspaper photo-journalist, I published about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos.
I worked nearly 30 years in the field of librarianship. I’m a decorated USAF veteran (including a remote tour of duty in the Arctic).
I’m the married parent of two and grandparent of six.
You can find J. L. Salter at these links: